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Contracts for services — Another visitor visa option for short term workers entering the UK?

We take a look at another visitor visa option for short term workers entering the UK.

Following our article on the circumstances in which non-UK workers can enter and conduct specific types of work (specifically looking at General Business Activities and Intra-Corporate Activities) under the Visitor Visa’s permitted activities, we recently assisted a client (company A) who is part of a Group multi-national with a particular issue regarding some long-standing arrangements for one of the Group’s EU companies (company B) to provide its workers to provide a specific mechanical installation in the UK.

The options referred to in our previous article did not apply to the specific circumstances in consideration. However, another option was identified which was applicable. Under the permitted activities (PA7 of the immigration rules) ‘an employee of a foreign manufacturer may install, dismantle, repair, service or advise on equipment, computer software or hardware, where such a manufacturer has a contract of purchase or supply or lease with a UK company or organisation’.

Company A did not have the product or skills base to provide the mechanical installation and, importantly, through a contract for the installation of that by company B (with appropriate contracts, invoices and practical arrangements) were able to utilise the above permission.

The employees of company B were able to travel to the UK and provide the installation.

In accordance with the immigration rules, however, those workers travelling are required to hold evidence of the intended business activities. This can include:

  • A letter from their employer confirming:
    • the reason for their visit;
    • the nature of the work (and how that is a permitted activity);
    • that they will be paid expenses for travel, subsistence and accommodation;
    • the likely duration of the work; and
    • that they will at all times remain employed by their non-UK employer (including details of job title, start date of employment and salary).
  • A copy of the agreement (or similar) for services between the UK company and the non-UK company.

As a general rule, passport control are to expect such work to be completed within one month but the fact it will be longer than that is not automatic grounds for refusal. The workers in question may just receive some additional scrutiny on the details of their work and plans to return home. It is worth remembering that visitors are generally able to stay up to six months.

Whether or not passport control will ask for any of the above is debatable but in accordance with immigration rules, the non-UK company would be well advised to provide their workers with access to such documents should they need them.

It is easy to see how less scrupulous employers may seek to exploit the availability of such a permitted activity. To avoid being accused of the same, particularly where any such arrangements are intra-group, employers would be wise to have all relevant documentation (such as contracts for services and invoices) readily available and in place for some time before the work is to be conducted.

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